Anna Leask

Anna Leask is a police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Flight MH370: A mother's strength

I will never give up hope and hunting for the truth, says wife of missing Kiwi passenger, as she and her children look for the brightest star each night

Paul and Danica Weeks with their two children Jack, now 1, and Lincoln, 3.
Paul and Danica Weeks with their two children Jack, now 1, and Lincoln, 3.

For a moment when Danica Weeks wakes up, she thinks the last seven weeks have all been a bad dream.

She thinks her husband, Paul, will be there beside her; they will get up and tend to their two little boys together.

And then reality hits and Mrs Weeks is hurled back to March 8, the day she cannot move forward from, the day her happy family life was taken from her.

"I awake hoping this is all a bad dream and that Pauly will just come home to us," Mrs Weeks told the Weekend Herald in her first in-depth New Zealand interview.

"I often catch myself thinking about what that would be like, but I have to quickly push that to the back of my mind as I can't allow myself hope when logically there is none. The only time I don't think about him is when I'm asleep, and that is mostly aided by sedatives."

On March 8, Mr Weeks, 38, was en route to Mongolia to start a new job as a mechanical engineer. While waiting to board Flight MH370 in Kuala Lumpur he texted his wife, who was at home with their sons Lincoln, 3, and Jack, then 11 months old.

He said he was missing his family already, that they were his world.

Mrs Weeks never imagined that text would be the last contact she would ever have with her husband.

Today marks 49 days since MH370 vanished, with Christchurch-raised Mr Weeks and 238 others on board.

"It's only worsened as the days have gone on," said Mrs Weeks. "With no real answers from Malaysia Airlines as to what has occurred, it is a rollercoaster of emotions. Whilst you can be strong for so long, as time ticks on it eats away at this strength. But I've been lucky. I have two beautiful boys and supportive friends and family to pull me through the dark times."

The emotions include grief, confusion, anger, fear, exhaustion and frustration. But the loneliness is the worst.

"Paul is my soul mate and best friend as well as a committed husband and father. We did everything together as a family. It's lonely not having him here with us, next to me at night, sharing details of our days and having a laugh. I miss him so much it's beyond painful."

Jack turned 1 this month, a milestone his father should have been part of. Mrs Weeks' birthday was just three days later - her hardest day so far.

"It was tough knowing Pauly should have been home and celebrating with us," said Mrs Weeks. "I got through Jack's birthday only through the amazing laughter and smiles of the children. But by the time it came to my birthday, the emotional toll of it was all too much and I had a breakdown - a place I try not to go for the sake of myself and our boys."

Lincoln, old enough to know his father is not coming home but not to grasp the gravity of the situation, has a lot of questions for his mother, including, she said, "What happened to Daddy? Why isn't he coming home? When can I see him again?"

"I just have to answer as best I can at the moment ... I have told him dad is always with him in his heart and watching over him.

"At night we look for the brightest star to say goodnight to. Naturally he cries and wants dad to come down and be with us ... It tears me apart, but I have to remain strong."

Mrs Weeks said she could not think of her husband as dead or gone - and won't be able to until there is proof. "It is still not final for me. I don't have anything concrete."

Mrs Weeks recently returned to her job as an accounts manager, and the boys to daycare.

"The days and dates are just a blur. Work have allowed me to come back when and for however long I can cope. But there is only so long you can stay home and stare at four walls waiting for information without getting very angry, frustrated and overwhelmed," she said.

"Work has been a good distraction and I'm around people. The worst times are when you're alone. Lincoln has been very emotional ... but some normality in our lives has been good, you have to keep something normal going to keep your sanity.

"I haven't moved forward since March 8. We know nothing ... so you just can't move on. I liken our situation to a family having gone through a [murder] where no body has been found. You have no closure so you just can't believe your loved one is gone. In most of these cases, I am guessing the families have a confession or motive. We have none of this - not a single concrete clue or answer on how this has happened - so it definitely makes it harder to grieve."

The search for the jet has dominated the news worldwide, meaning Mrs Weeks has had little privacy to grieve or escape the constant barrage of "MH370".

Alongside the ever-changing updates on the where, why and how of the search, she has had to endure endless theories and opinions from so-called experts on aviation from all corners of the globe.

In an eerie twist, the search moved to an area about four hours' flying time off the coast of Perth and was based just a 10-minute drive from the Weeks' home.

"It's harrowing ... With no information, your mind constantly makes up scenarios of what happened and around what you have read in the news and it's excruciating to think that your loved one could be involved in any of that."

Two weeks ago, searchers thought they had found the Boeing 777's black-box flight recorder. The device is holy grail-like in the search and could hold all of the answers Mrs Weeks and the families of the other passengers and crew so desperately want.

Mrs Weeks is torn every time she hears the promise of "news" of MH370. "It is a double-edged sword. You have a glimmer of hope your loved one is still with you - and that is human nature when you have no concrete evidence - but you also hope that they find something that will give you closure.

"Never knowing the truth will haunt me for my lifetime and I refuse to give up seeking the truth as Paul would have done exactly the same thing for me if the tables were turned, that I know for sure."

Mrs Weeks said she would not be able to properly grieve for her husband until she knew the full story.

She is in daily contact with Malaysia Airlines by email, in which they provide general search information. She has lodged a list of official questions with the investigation team and hopes they will give her some of the answers she is seeking.

There have also been discussions on compensation for MH370 families.

"Would it help us? What would really help us is the truth," she said.

"In this day and age you cannot tell me that someone doesn't know what happened. And if they truly don't know, then I feel sincerely concerned about people continuing to fly whilst we still don't have the answers. All we have is theories. We just need the truth."

43 days (poem written by Danica Weeks to her husband)

43 days and still waiting for news,
Merely existing while waiting for just a single clue.
My world as I knew it has now disappeared,
To think of a future without you, I'm constantly scared.
And how can I do that while the truth is unknown,
With a constant lack of information being shown.
Someone knows something and I wish they would say,
So many unanswered questions day after day.
So for now I am thankful for the time that we shared,
Our beautiful sons and how for all of us you so very much cared.
And while I still wish that you'll come home to us one day,
To hold you once more for this I will pray.
But you are not just a seat number, that I will never allow,
You were our everything, so to fight for the truth to you I vow.

Love you Pauly always & forever,
Danica xox

Malaysia: We'll release report

The Malaysian Prime Minister is refusing to declare Flight MH370 and the 239 people on board lost, but is expecting to release a report by expert investigators in the next week "in the name of transparency".

Najib Razak said that "on the balance of the evidence, it would be hard to imagine" the Boeing 777 was not lost. However, he would not officially make the call.

"Right now I think I need to take into account the feelings of the next of kin - and some of them have said publicly that they aren't willing to accept it until they find hard evidence," he told CNN.

Mr Najib said the case of the missing jet was "the most technically challenging, most complex issue" Malaysia had ever faced - "or any country, for that matter".

"Some of the things, we did well. We were very focused on searching for the plane. We didn't get our communications right, absolutely right to begin with, but I think towards the later part, we got our act together.

"I'm prepared to say that there are things we did well, there are things we didn't do too well, but we're prepared ... to look into it and we're prepared for this investigation team to do its objective assessment."

He said the report was done by "the foremost experts in the aviation industry" from the US and England.

He demanded it because he could not fathom how MH370 ended up off Western Australia when it was supposed to be flying to Beijing.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n6 at 30 Jul 2014 19:53:51 Processing Time: 530ms